Making of 'Prince NyTael'

Hi there, my name is Malanjo and I'm from Portugal (Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro), and I want to thanks to Lynette Clee and the 3DTotal team for inviting me to create this making of.

This is the 1st of 6 characters that I'm creating to apply to Blur Studio (Venice, California).  By the way, I wish to also give thanks to Laurent Pierlot and to Alessandro Baldessorini (from Blur Studio) for their personal opinions during the execution of this project.  Thanks guys!

Okay, let's go!

Concept and Idea

So, the goal was to create something like a fantasy monster or an alien - not an "ordinary" alien or monster but one with fur; something visually strong and demanding of respect, whilst at the same time giving the sensation of relaxation and security.  Technically speaking, the goal was to achieve a character for film (high poly), with everything organised (modelling, UVs, texturing, low system and machine-consuming, etc...), but I also wanted to put him in a pose so as to achieve something dynamic.

After a search on the Internet I found some references, such as from the game "Asura", and I used these sketches and paintings to help create the final mood:

(Note: Sorry but I don't know the names of the authors of this paintings; if someone recognises them, please e-mail me!)

With this project, it was necessary for me to make my own sketches, as follows:


Before modelling, I always do some research for music (related to the subject matter) in order to get into the mood of the project.  It's also a great way to keep my mind open to another great art form: music!  So, for "food" for the right side of the brain I chose mainly the OST of "The 300", the OST of "The Passion of Christ" and a little bit of Sigur Rós just to chill out at times of stress.

So, I started with the modelling of the head, working around on the overall form and then looking at the small details (a principle of drawing!).  If I have a cool head, the rest of the body comes out easily with time and work.
As you can see here, I did a base mesh (poly by poly modelling, trying to work always with dynamic shapes and curves to achieve good harmony in the character), and then I modelled the rest of the shapes in ZBrush.

After the modelling of the head - not the final one but the one on which I could start work (I'm always moving on the form of the character, like in life drawing, trying to achieve the best shapes and relate them all!), I started blocking the body of the character, defining proportions and the pose (as you can see here, I used a biped pose before like in real sculpting; I always try to take an approach with real world methods which I think is because of my Fine Art education which was the main jump for me to start in the CG world!).

And here's the final base mesh of the model.  This is almost the final base mesh because, as I said earlier, at this stage I never close any part of the model; I'm always playing around when I can.  For example, as you can see from the feet, they are not the final feet of the final image, just like the left arm - no glove there!
Keeping the modelling as simple as possible is a good way to keep good health with the rest of the project (file usage, UVW layouts, texturing, render, rigging, animation, etc.).  Like a good friend of mine says, "We are working with pixels!"  It is not necessary to have everything modelled; a good normal map or displacement map, in most cases, is our best friend!  For sure, it depends of the main subject of the project you are doing, but having everything organised and playing around with the K.I.S.S. rule (Keep It Sweet and Simple) is a good method!


I think modelling and texturing are related.  If you have a sweet model then you must do, and you can do, a sweet texturing too - it is all about applying your art to it!  And the connection between these two guys is to have a good UVW layout.  So, for the UVW I used Submaterial IDs and UVW Groups to make it more organised, with no stretching, and I concentrated on doing the UV seams in the right places.  So, I used the normal pelt of 3ds Max and Deep UV to relax the UVs.  Here're some examples:

Before I start texturing something - or in the middle of the modelling stage - I always create a simple light rig, just to see how the model comes out with light and to check if the mesh is OK in order to go forwards with texturing and lighting. Here I used Brazil RS with no GI generation.

For the texturing and shading I used Normal Maps, Cavity Maps (from ZBrush and Poly Boost, in some cases, to mix with Photoshop with Diffuse Color Maps) Diffuse Maps, Specular Maps, Bump Map, and in the case of skin an SSS Intesity Map (generated with Poly Boost and then re-painted by hand in Photoshop), plus some alphas painted in Photoshop, ZBrush and Bodypaint to use as "mixer maps" in order to mix the textures and shaders in 3ds Max.  The dimensions of the maps go to 0.5K to 3K, to avoid high memory usage.  For a database of textures I used the Internet and some textures from my personal database, a.k.a. "Photographic Machine"; it's always good to have one in your pocket as everyday you'll find something new! Here are some maps:

For the look of the hair I wanted to do something clean, not your ordinary dirty warrior because this guy is a Prince, as you can see; his fighting clothes (armour, belt, sword, etc.) are refined with ornaments and gold.  So, here's a pre-viz of the hair (WIP here, at this stage of the project):

Lighting (Refining Light)

I made the light based on the painting of the boxer (please see the concept stage for more detail).  I wanted a dark look, but at the same time with a little harmony and contrast to push out the forms and the philosophy of the world of the character.  Technically speaking, I played around with spot lights and omni lights (no GI was used, just a simple HDRI map on the environment).  Here's a board of the scheme of the light rig:


This character deserved a sweet composite!  For this, I didn't use any special passes, just a direct render from 3D and the background was rendered separately from the character to make it easier to work with.  Here're the layers (almost all of them in Soft Light blending mode) of the composite that I used to paint and tweak the image:

After this, it was good to have renders of some views of the model.  Just for fun and for experimenting, I gave some love and time to the presentation of the model.  I attached a silhouette here for evaluation proposes (it's always good to put a graphic icon to see how the shapes of the model works in terms of negative spaces, mass, dynamism, proportions, etc.):

So, this is it!  I hope you have enjoyed this as much as I loved creating it.  I will keep going with my other 5 characters and try my luck, always trying to improve my skills in order to develop as both an artist and a person.  If you have any questions, please email me:

Malanjo -

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